“I'm concerned about the level of, frankly, subversive activity that the Iranians are carrying on in a number of places in Latin America, particularly South America and Central America,” Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee Jan. 27.
“They're opening a lot of offices and a lot of fronts, behind which they interfere in what is going on in some of these countries.”
U.S. intelligence officials believe the Iranian subversive activity is aimed at preparing to create a network of terrorists and other groups that could be called on to attack the United States and U.S. interests in the Western Hemisphere in response to any future U.S. strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.
Iran in the past has relied on the terrorist group Hizbullah, a Shiite group based in Lebanon, to conduct proxy attacks and Hizbullah surrogates could be part of the Iranian subversive activity.
Gates said he is more concerned about the Iranian activities in the region than those of the Russians, which have included warship and bomber visits to Venezuela and Cuba.
“To be honest, I'm more concerned about Iranian meddling in the region than I am the Russians,” Gate said. “I felt that our best response to the Russian ship visits to Venezuela was nonchalance.”
Gates also said that if Russian forces had not invaded Georgia in August he would have considered inviting Russian ships to visit Miami “because I think they'd have had a lot better time than they did in Caracas.”
Russian out of area military movements are not a concern, “on the other hand, Iranian meddling is a concern.” He did not elaborate.